By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The event is called UnderDressed. The premise: Money raised from a fashion-show auction will buy underwear for people in local homeless shelters. The place: the modernist mansion known as the Fortress. Take the topmost section of the very tallest hill in Hollywood, slice off the peak, add a few slabs of concrete, glass and minimal wire fencing, and you’ll have a sense of the open-air foyer in which we’re standing.
Several dozen smartly dressed men preen while the 20-something hostess in a Cinderella gown pumps the room, along with Jonathan Silverman, the evening’s co-MC (black suit, black shirt). Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe, arm in arm, check out a table loaded with auction goodies. Jacinda Barrett, from MTV’s Real World, appears in a vintage outfit. James Cromwell autographs a pair of boxers, then grins for a French camera crew, spreading the boxers across his chest. “Hippie Skivvies” reads the elastic band. “This is me,” he says gamely, “holding underwear.”
As the sun sets, the city stretches out beneath us, a sea of glittering lights.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” the photographer says. “One million people down there.”
“Try 9million.” His girlfriend jabs him in the arm.
A bearded producer-type ambles over and favors us with a mock sneer: “Aaagh. I’ve seen better . . . on the satellite.”
It seems more than a little demented that there are people who live like this every day, while somewhere, in some back alley south of the Hollywood Hills, someone is dreaming of a hot shower and a clean pair of underpants. Which is, we must not forget, the point of why the hundred or so of us are here, checkbooks in hand, on this chilly February night.
Someone has tied a white bed sheet to a tree for use as a makeshift projection screen. The words No Signal ripple in video-blue as the wind blows, an unintentional metaphor. Spacy alien music pipes in through hidden speakers. The crowd gathers to view a documentary about UnderShare, the event’s sponsor. Onscreen, a homeless woman talks about the shame of not having a bra that fits, of wearing one that has to be held together with a safety pin. Another woman talks about kids in shelters who wear plain, tattered briefs while their classmates sport Spider-Man UnderRoos. We shift uncomfortably at the incongruity of it all, as images of men in dirty sleeping bags flit across the bed sheet. I, myself, am here in Victoria’s Secret. How many other women, in slipping on the spaghetti-strap dresses for tonight’s formal gig, worried about panty lines and G-strings? At the cost of $250, each of the evening’s “by invitation only” tickets will fetch 30 packs of new underwear. I catch bits of disjointed conversations:
“Did you hear that one of the owners had a fit about the parking and kicked everyone out of the house?”
“Do you know anyone here?”
“Hell no, I’m just here to dress the models!” â
I bump into a young man tinkering with a camera. “You’re the videographer.”
“No,” he intones, “I am the Video Artist.”
The fashion-show portion of the night opens with a brunette in pantaloons and bustier. She twirls a parasol to the French lounge tunes of Pink Martini: Je ne vais pas travailler, je ne vais pas déjeuner. I don’t want to work, I don’t want to get up. Next a perky blond in pearls and 1920s-vintage nightie, followed by a raven-haired Betty Paige in a gingham bikini. From one fin de siècle to the other, it’s a history of fashion traced out in lingerie. A girl in a satin jumper prances by. The Video Artist does a double take as her nipple slips out from beneath her bra strap. Oblivious, she adjusts her panties. Sexy.
On the walk back down to the car, it’s so dark you can hardly see where you’re stepping. I stumble on a cracked section of asphalt. All around, the houses, protected by massive gates and flanked by ornate grilles and impressive walls, are silent. Someone has graffitied the chain-linked plywood fences that have been erected as an afterthought, presumably, to shelter residents from passing headlights and to prevent wayward Porsches from plummeting down the side of the mountain. By Hollywood standards, tonight’s party has been a modest one. The end result of months of wrangling and finagling and coaxing, sculpted into glam seamlessness. I hope they’ve made thousands. What Picasso said about art could also be said for the ritual of fund-raising: It is “the lie that helps us see the truth.”
PROFILE: Tom Reed’s Color Television
He hasn’t been a DJ since 1976, but Tom Reed still sometimes acts as if you can’t see him. The voice is quick like invisible gloved fists on the speed bag; your head snaps to his beat: listenup listenup listenup. Doesn’t move much. (Radio booths are cramped.) Hunches a little, concentrating through the dark glasses worn even indoors — mood shades, control windows. Black ski cap, dark pinstriped suit jacket, black drainpipes, sharp black patent-leather shoes. Documenting black culture is his work. He’s black.